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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

439,000 Foreign Residents Allowed

Foreigners who want to settle down in Chechnya, Yaroslavl or two other regions had better think again. The local authorities don't want you.

Starting Jan. 1, the number of foreigners living in the regions will be regulated by a strict quota system developed by local administrations and the Interior Ministry, according to a decree signed by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and released Tuesday.

Only 439,000 foreigners will be issued temporary residence permits to live in Russia in 2003, the decree said. Temporary residence permits will be effective for three years and granted to all foreigners who want to stay in Russia for more than 90 days.

The decree is required under a federal law regulating the activities of foreigners living and working in Russia, which came into force late last month. The quota system is a part of a government campaign to get rid of cheap foreign labor -- mainly immigrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus region.

The quotas should have little affect on white-collar workers from Western countries, but it will probably fuel bribery and corruption among those overseeing its implementation, experts said.

Kasyanov's decree, which breaks down quotas into two categories -- the seven federal districts and 89 regions -- will allow almost one-third of all foreigners, or about 146,000 people, to live next year in the Central Federal District, which includes Moscow. The fewest number of temporary residence permits -- some 9,000 -- will be issued in the Southern Federal District.

The quotas for Chechnya, Yaroslavl, Kalmykia and the Komi-Permyak autonomous district are zero.

"Most probably, these regions failed to submit their quotas for foreigners on time," government spokesman Alexei Gorshkov said by telephone.

The city of Moscow and the Kaliningrad exclave asked to host the largest number of foreigners -- 90,000 and 48,000, respectively.

The cold, northern territories appear to be the least hospitable. The Nenets autonomous district asked for only 50 foreigners, and the Khabarovsk region put the number at 100.

The Moscow region, which is home to tens of thousands of immigrants from impoverished Central Asia and Caucasus countries, is set to issue a mere 550 temporary residence permits next year.

Those who fail to get a temporary residence permit -- which will be stamped in foreigners' passports and include data such as age, sex and citizenship and place of birth -- will face a fine of 10,000 rubles ($320) and deportation.

It was unclear Tuesday how the quota system will be enforced. Officials with the Federal Migration Service, the government's main agency overseeing foreigners and their employers, were not available for comment.

Lidiya Grafova, the head of the nongovernmental Forum of Migrants' Organizations, slammed the quota system and the law on foreigners as corrupt Tuesday.

"Nobody expects that foreigners not included in a quota will pack their bags and leave Russia," she said. "People will just be forced to bribe officials when threatened with fines and deportation."

Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov recently said 3 million to 4 million illegal immigrants are working in the shadow economy, and no more than 300,000 foreigners have work permits.

Those 300,000 are Western personnel employed by companies operating in accordance with the law, and they should not be afraid of finding themselves outside the quotas, said Daniel Marti, a consultant with the Denton Wilde Sapte law firm.

"There is even some room between the 300,000 with work permits and the quota's 439,000, and I would not expect that authorities will force any foreigner to leave," he said, referring to qualified Westerners.

The government said the quotas will be updated annually. Kasyanov's decree orders regional governments and the Interior Ministry to submit their proposals on quotas every fall.

And there is a loophole for foreigners determined to live in Chechnya or Yaroslavl: The decree states that the quota system is not applicable to foreigners who marry Russian citizens or invest in the Russian economy.